8 Aug 2007

British separate stance over Fiji coup from soldier recruitment

10:44 am on 8 August 2007

The British High Commission in Wellington has said the recruitment of Fiji civilians into the British army is completely separate from its diplomatic stance over the December coup.

Fiji TV has reported that Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and the Commonwealth Secretary General, Don McKinnon, had been lobbying against the recruitment all year.

But the British government has decided it can continue

In a statement it said the British Government had consistently condemned the 2006 coup in Fiji and was working through the European Union to see a return to democracy as soon as possible.

It said the UK had suspended its modest programme of military support.

But it said the authorities in Fiji played no role in the selection or recruitment for the British army.

A Defence analyst and senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies in Wellington, Jim Rolfe, says the choice is a matter of expedience:

"The British army has been over stretched for some years now and they are looking for recruits wherever they can get them and in Fiji they find people with military experience who understand the military system and who can be trained in the British way with the minimum of problems."

A senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University in Wellington, Jim Rolfe.